14 May 2013

What Language do you Speak?


Have you ever traveled outside of the country?  What are some of the things you do before traveling?  We know we should contact our bank, credit card companies, obtain a passport, and have the post office hold our mail.  You study a map of your destination; you understand the currency and exchange rate; and probably one of the most important things you will do is locate our embassy.  But what if we can’t speak the language? Then what? Are we lost?

Brethren, how is your daily walk? How are your quiet times and devos? Remember that seven days without prayer makes one weak! For me, I’ve just been counting it all joy. I’m too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed. I hope you don’t think I’m super-spiritual or that I’ve arrived. After all, I’m not perfect, just forgiven. Some people have accused me of being so heavenly-minded that I am no earthly good, but have patience with me please—God’s not finished with me yet!

These examples are typical of a language called “Christianese.” It’s a language mastered especially by those who have been in church all of their lives! Many speak fluent Christianese.

Other examples of Christianese that perplex me:

I don’t understand the “blessing” of food. First of all, it is dead! And, it’s probably been cut up, ground up, chopped up, and burnt up by now. Any chance for God in Heaven to bless this plant or creature is probably past due. And, you’re fixing to drown it in stomach acid after gnawing it into an unrecognizable mush. Don’t ask the Lord to BLESS it, just give Him THANKS for it.

Also, if you’re ever asked to give thanks for the food, don’t think it’s your job to lead the hungry masses to Christ and get a little discipling or disciplining done while you’ve got the hunger podium. Usually, at this point, the food is on the table ready to eat, getting colder the longer you practice your preaching. Just tell God thank you and eat. No one is listening.

Why do we say “God bless you” after a sneeze? Why not after a fart? Yeah, I’ve heard the nonsense about your soul leaving your body, your heart stopping, and having a near death experience – but I get plenty close to death just driving the roads with some of you while you’re texting or farding (not misspelled, Google it) behind the wheel. No one ever said “God bless you” to me after I nearly died at a busy intersection. Besides, He already has blessed me.

“He/She is a STRONG Christian.” This one seems particular vulgar to me. My first thought is “Pharisee.” My second thought is “when I am weak, He is strong.”

Christianese dialects give birth to the whole “denomination” thing. We’re experts at talking the One Christ, One Church slogan, but as soon as iron starts sharpening iron and the sparks begin to fly, so does the unity – right out the window. How easily we run to our comfort camps and start flinging the flaming arrows of disdain at our brothers who may speak a little differently.

Why do Christians digress into what sounds like an entirely different language when it comes to the things of God?

Our language is already different enough from the language of the world.  Since we already ‘are in the world and do not act the world’s way,’ we unintentionally distance ourselves even further from the culture by our talk.

What happens when we visit a country that speaks a language other than English?

Despite our best attempts to communicate, once we sense that we aren’t being understood, we usually resort to speaking loud, slow English, hoping to barrel through the language barrier. Pairing that with some elaborate charade movements, arms flailing wildly, doesn’t lead to successful communication.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 “Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.

Like students who are asked to write “in your own words…” their thoughts on a particular subject in school, we should learn to take the good news of the bible and paraphrase it into our own words. When we speak the truth in plain language, it not only benefits the people we talk to, but it allows God’s word to become real in our own lives.

04 May 2013

Don't Abandon the Baby

Two Things I Hate About Christians:

Street Witnessing
Common Evangelism

Before you write me off as a heretic, let me explain…

I was downtown last week at a job site inspecting some work we had done when I walked out into a group of well-meaning Christians handing out those cheesy tracts that look like money.  You've seen this track before, the one that looks like a $20 bill.

Our exchange was something like this:

Spirited guy with tract, “Here sir!”
“No thanks.”
“No, really sir; take this and read it.”
“Really sir, I’m a Christ follower" (I intentionally did not say ‘Christian’) and went on, “You can save the paper.”
“But don’t you know anyone who’s not saved?”
“Yes, but I spend time talking to them instead.”
And I walked away, a little frustrated.

During a business lunch, a prospective client went into a dissertation against “emergent” theology and warned me about heresy and the need for sound doctrine.

I don’t know why, but the guy just kept talking. He’d ask questions and hardly let me answer. I barely got a reply in.

That was beneficial. Not.

So, now you probably think I’m petty. Are you the one on the street corner with the tracts? Are you the guy at the lunch meeting? Are you me? Well, I've been all three, and maybe you have been, also.

There is nothing wrong with the tracts themselves. They’re a tool. And there’s nothing wrong with telling people about God.

BUT... we have to care about the person.

We have become so desensitized by Facebook, tweets, and blogs that we've forgotten to care about body language and the fact that there’s a life attached to that hand we’re shoving a tract into.

Christ knew people. He saw the person and cared about them and their life.

It’s not enough to tell people about salvation, we’re called to BE the BODY OF CHRIST, which means we’re acting on His behalf.

Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

We are the Church and we are meant to be His fullness. That means we are coworkers in bringing that salvation to the world.

So ‘care’ about who you’re talking to. Don’t offer that tract if you’re not willing to be part of their lives and lead them to good discipleship. I truly believe that ‘evangelism without discipleship’ is spiritual abuse.

And whatever you do, don’t reduce the Gospel to a sales pitch. It’ll change everything in the way you bear witness.

Christ did so much more than give a pitch, and He said we’d do even greater things than He did… Wow.
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